On the Southernmost tip of Sipadan Island you will find the aptly named site, South Point. Exposed to the prevailing currents, this is an excellent dive where you have the greatest possibility of observing schools of hammerhead sharks. Given the fact that the schools of hammerheads are normally found in stronger currents at depths in the 40 meter (130 foot) range, you will be most comfortable here if you have two things:
- Advanced Open Water Certification
- Experience diving with current
Not to say that newer divers shouldn’t dive this site, but if you do, you should have a great sense of adventure and stick close to your Dive Master as depths descend straight down to 600+ meters and currents can be strong. The reason that you want to stick close to your Dive Master and buddy at South Point is because most times at this site, if you are lucky enough to see the hammerheads, (Lana and Tim have not seen them in 5 trips to Sipadan) they are close to 40 meters (130 Feet) and that’s after you swim far enough into the blue that the wall behind you nearly disappears.
So, if you are after excitement, then ditch the Nitrox. This is a dive you do not want to be restricted by depth limits if you see big creatures beyond your Nitrox Maximum Operating Depth. If you typically dive Nitrox, it is good to know when planning your trip that the first two dives of the day at Sipadan are usually deep and air may give you more flexibility. Given the depths that most groups usually descend to at South Point, it is commonly your first and deepest dive of the day in hopes of seeing the schooling hammerheads and other “big stuff” like grey reef sharks, thresher sharks, eagle rays, tuna, barracuda and jacks, to name a few. If your timing and the currents are just right, South Point becomes a happy hunting ground where you can observe many of the larger pelagics.
As we back-rolled and dropped down during our three times at South Point, the sharks were definitely there. Albeit, they were smaller white tips and some medium-sized grey reefs, but they were present in large numbers. We did spot one eagle ray gracefully swimming by and the SDA Team all agreed it felt like we gave ourselves concussions by the end of the dive. This was a result of flinging our hands to our heads as we signaled the shark sign so many times. Shark! Hopefully on one of our future trips to Sipadan, we will time it right and see the majestic schools of hammerheads that Sipadan is famous for.
As with most of the dive sites at Sipadan, entry and exit at South Point are normally planned near the shallow reefs where massive schools of smaller reef fish dart in and out of the corals. You are almost guaranteed to see at least one turtle in the shallows and many times they are accompanied by giant trevally, white tips, and many other larger fish. On any of your entries or safety stops over the shallow reefs, it is normal to see many varieties of boxfish, trigger fish, surgeon fish (aka tangs), grouper and eels among the endless list you will see. We have never been to a place where you see so many varieties of hard to find fish in huge numbers as Sipadan and South Point is certainly no exception.
Speaking of “safety stops,” we have a funny story to share from one of our dives at South Point: While the SDA Team were enjoying the peaceful reef scenery on our safety stop at South Point, Tim tapped his tank to get everyone’s attention, pointing to a fish asking what kind it was. Using underwater hand signals, Lana motioned the signal for a trigger fish but then shrugged in uncertainty. Everyone watched as Tim agreed but Tim needed confirmation (this trigger was huge) and called Eljer, our dive master. Before Tim even knew what was happening, Eljer had latched onto his arm and fin kicked 15 meters towards this massive titan triggerfish. Little did any of us know (except Eljer, who was buckled over with laughter) that the titan trigger fish was nesting and did not take kindly to Tim’s invasion. The protective trigger wasted no time in squaring off against Tim. As for Eljer? He’s gone. Buddies and dive mates? All were laughing hysterically. Why? Tim was dancing around, spinning in circles as this infuriated fish charged at him over and over while Tim used his pointer to keep the fish at bay and avoid being bitten. This dance went on for about 30 seconds and the battle finally ended when Tim retreated to the surface. The trigger won this battle with a couple last nips at Tim’s fins and then returned to its young. If you ever encounter the titan trigger, which is a beautiful fish to observe, be cognizant of its nesting “cone” extending up to the surface and maintain your distance. They may be quite aggressive and have been known to injure unsuspecting divers.
South Point is a dive site that can present many surprises throughout the dive. Be sure to ask your dive master if hammerheads have been sighted as you plan your dives each day. If the hammerheads have been spotted, then mark down South Point. It is one dive site you must put on your list and get ready for a thrilling ride!